Well, "The CMDB and CMS - the Powerhouse Of Service Management" has finished and was, we think, reasonably successful—certainly, the presentations and speakers were first-rate. What was particularly exciting was the appearance on stage of David Clarke and Keith Aldis (chief executives of the BCS & itSMF, respectively), giving the welcome speech and talking of the need for these two groups to co-operate more closely in the interests of IT industry professionalism generally. After all, the new ITIL v3 focus is on "business outcomes"—and these depend on the traditional BCS "IT Group" membership and the Operations "service delivery" people in the itSMF working together in pursuit of the delivery of automated services to the business. Although there's plenty of overlap between the two organisations already and it is easy to meet people that belong to both.
This is a sign of the times and the increasing need for professionalism in the IT industry. The BCS is apparently working on widening the scope of its traditional CITP (Chartered Information Technology Professional) qualification [I have one myself and am extremely proud of it—it is certainly not simply a "paper qualification"] so that, for example, the itSMF could issue them; as well as organisations overseas. The CITP letters mean something since the claims supporting them are checked by, at minimum, an interview and any qualifications/experiences claimed are verified—and one delay in expanding its scope is that this needs Privy Council approval.
The time is past for IT professionals to be entirely self-certified—IT is too important to business operations these days.
The conference content was pretty innovative too, with an "interactive stream" in which collaborative technology was used to capture attendee experiences of the implementation of Configuration Management—of the issues real people had met and of ways found to overcome them. After all, people often say that the most valuable part of most conferences is the chance to discuss issues with like-minded people; this BCS/itSMF conference aimed to capture this knowledge for everyone. The results will be tidied up and posted on the CMSG website; and it is hoped to transform them into a practical guide to implementing Configuration Management, with value add from the likes of Shirley Lacy (co-author of the ITIL V3 Service Transition book).
Participants generally recommended an incremental approach to implementing a configuration management system: "eating the elephant in chunks"; "one approach that works is [first] implementing CMS for one entire end-to-end service, as this delivers maximum buy-in". They wanted to know what the vendors were doing to assist with incremental delivery of the CMS, starting with reuse of what an organisation already had.
One issue centred on what Kevin Parker of Serena calls "the IT industry's "dirty little secret": vendor lock in. As he said, "The only one who benefits from a single vendor standard is the single vendor" and, although the one-stop-shop may seem attractive to an organisation buying "application lifecycle management" tools from scratch, in practice everyone has some tools already and needs to integrate "best of breed" tools. He suggests that your short list should only include products that come with an open Web Services interface and which let you just pay for the functionality you actually use (he also suggested that the Eclipse ALF framework could be part of the solution; although we don't see this initiative as capturing the mind-share it perhaps deserves).
Emmanuel Marchal, Director, Partner Programs at Tideway, a comparatively recent entrant in this field (Tideway was founded in 2002), also welcomed open standards, and thought that single vendor standards stifled innovation. However, Mark Best, a consultant using IBM/Telelogic tools, said that if the vendor supplied open interfaces into its framework, a largely single-vendor solution could still accommodate "best of breed" [although Dominic Tavassoli (VP Product Marketing at IBM/Telelogic) tells us that this isn't quite the "official" view at IBM: "...paramount is the customer—the solution must provide answers to his challenges of integration, automation and consistency across silos... the market trend is that successful offerings tend to have a very tight integration between the core disciplines (change management, configuration management, requirements management etc.) and provide open services to bring in the other stakeholder into the process", he says]. We suspect that the devil is in the detail here (in a slightly different sphere, Microsoft's Team Foundation Server, for example, has excellent open interfaces to other tools but does rather assume the Windows platform).
One vendor insight, from Kevin Parker again, was to ask your sales rep about "Vendor Specific Objective Evidence" (VSOE)—this is apparently what drives their bonuses/commissions etc. If you try to work out some way to optimise VSOE in respect to what you really need—then you'll have the salesperson on your side when s/he talks to your acquisitions people...
So, were there any issues with this conference? Well, I guess attendance was less than we'd expected—perhaps conference attendances are the first things to get cut in a recession (perhaps we're not technically in one yet, but I'm old enough to remember similar "bear markets" in the past, and this one feels familiar). Which is a pity, as knowledge, of the independent sort (from outside of your own silo) is what you need to remain competitive in a recession. When times get hard, only the best, most innovative, most agile companies survive—and they grow on managing acquired knowledge.
However, times and cultures change—should the CMSG (Configuration Management Specialist Group of the BCS), which puts on this conference, be thinking of holding more widely accessible Configuration Management conferences in Cyberspace (on the Second Life model) in future?
[David Norfolk is on the committee of the BCS CMSG.]